Chuck Palahniuk heaves a bulging black garbage bag onstage
Palahniuk says nothing as the noise tapers off. Then slowly, calmly, he launches into a reading of his short story, Zombies. Itâs about kids using defibrillators to give themselves DIY lobotomies, and it isnât typical Palahniukâitâs more of a tear-jerker than a gag-inducer, though itâs got its share of gross-out moments. Palahniukâs cadence has all the bite of a retired school librarian, but his story is brilliant, and something about his buttoned-up, bookish tone makes the graphic parts seem more illicit.
When Palahniuk is done reading, Mingo Skypes in from Paris. While his wife, Lidia Yuknavitch, promotes her novel Dora: A Headcase, Mingo is scouting locations for a film based on her yet-to-be-released novel, a contemporary retelling of the Joan of Arc story. From the giant screen above the stage, he shares behind-the-scenes details about Romance, the stilted love story of a dumpy stoner and a mentally disabled hot chick that Palahniuk says was inspired by his curiosity about how Sean Pennâs character in I Am Sam ended up with a daughter. The film is bizarre but fairly tame, save a scene on a Portland bus in which the female lead swings a used tampon over her head like a lasso. âI donât think Trimet really understood what we were doing,â says Mingo, of getting permission to film on the bus.